May 24, 2024, Friday
Nepal 1:37:26 pm

Atman : which is other than the known, beyond unknown

2. Kenopanishad – II

The Nepal Weekly
February 8, 2022

The ancient scripture – the Kenopanishad – refers to the ultimate point of clear consciousness and terms it as the soul or Atman the spring through which human sense organs get stimulated and remain activated until the soul’s connectivity with them remains intact. Atman is, therefore, considered to be the main mine of sources or the foundation of the senses’ sensation, illumination of the light, voice of the speech and perception of mind.

According to the Upanishad, the soul is so subtle, vast and universal that the sense organs – speech, eye, ear and mind- cannot access it. The soul is beyond the reach of sense organs. It is only through dedicated insight of knowledge and transcendental meditation – Atma Gyan – that one could understand its presence and once this is done the person gets salvation and freedom from the cycle of actions, rebirth and death. Discussed in the Vedas in various ways under Brahmha as well, the Soul is regarded as key concept of cosmic principle with emphasis on Truth, Consciousness and Bliss – Sat Chit Ananda- having power of the highest reality such as unchanging, infinite, permanent, omnipresent,  eternality and with no features or characteristics –Nirgun in Sanskrit.

The methodology to teach pupils about Brahma or Soul has not yet been evolved because the Soul exists in such a manner that it cannot be known in an expressed form or structure. It is beyond knowledge, experience, it is also beyond the known or felt. The Kenopanishad describes it, in rather unique way, as other than known – Vidit in Sanskrit – and different from unknown – Avidit-, indicating the need to require some divine-like deep insight-process to comprehend the presence and power of Soul. The insight process engages complicated phases of transcendental meditation and perception, which could be rarely accomplished even with untiring dedication and devotion in a single human life time. In fact, the soul is not accessible to humans. No matter what they do through their perspectives of sense organs, faith or other physical and mental processes to get hold of it, the soul remains unavailable, unrealized and un-grasped. Those who believe they know it or find it in stone idols and explore through worship or prayer are in illusion. They do not know what they could never know about the Soul.

The saying by scriptures that those who know they do not know about the soul know but those who claim to know the soul do not know looks contradictory. But the same is true.

In an illustration for proving illusion of power among Gods during Devasur Sangram – the battle between Gods and Devils – the Kenopanishad presents a narrative in story-format. As Gods won the battle they felt very powerful. But actually a superpower called Parabrahma has made that victory possible. This is what Gods did not realize and they began passing time praising themselves and their prowess. Brahma therefore took the form of Yakshya and sought to teach Gods lessons. Gods wanted to know the identity of Yakshya and for this purpose they command fire God – Agni – to find out who Yakshya is. As Agni talks to Yakshya, the latter asks him what his speciality in power is. To this Agni replies – I destroy everything to ashes. Yakshya forwards a piece of hay and asks Agni to burn it. As Agni fails to burn it, he returns disappointed to tell Gods that he could not identify Yakshya. Agni by itself did not have the power to ignite but he did not know it. The cosmic power that gives Agni the property to burn is beyond sense organs.

Then Gods command wind God -Vayu- to find out who in reality Yakshya is. The wind God, like the fire God tries to have insight into the identity of Yakshya. When asked what his speciality in power was, the wind God said he has power to make everything flown up or blown up. Yakshya offers a piece of hay and asks wind to make it flown up. The wind cannot do so. Then the wind returns to Gods feeling let down in not being able to identify Yakshya. Vayu was in illusion that he had the power to make things flown but actually the cosmic force that gave Vayu the ability to make things flown was separate from it and located far from it. Until that force charges Vayu, it remains powerless.

Then Gods send Indra to find out the reality behind Yakshya. As Indra approaches Yakshya, he gets invisible and Indra instead gets vision of a beautiful woman descending from the sky. The woman is actually the Goddess of knowledge and wisdom – Uma who explains: Gods! You got victory because of Brahma and the same had come to you in the form of Yakshya. Because of this incident Indra was familiarized with Brahma  through deep insight of knowledge and wisdom and he has therefore been given the status of the king of Gods. Because Agni and Wind also got close to the knowledge and wisdom symbolized by woman in the illustration, they also are accorded special status among Gods. (Also see Feb. 1 issue) By Shirish B. Pradhan

(See for Nepali version)